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Craig Kerstiens

Postgres hidden gems

Postgres has a rich set of features, even when working everyday with it you may not discover all it has to offer. In hopes of learning some new features that I didn’t know about myself as well as seeing what small gems people found joy in I tweeted out to see what people came back from. The response was impressive, and rather than have it lost into ether of twitter I’m capturing some of the responses here along with some resources many of the features.

Sourcing developer marketing content

I spend a lot of time with dev tool and data companies. I think I’ve more or less banished myself to a life of working in the space, no consumer products for me. In that world a common topic that comes up amongst marketing teams is how do I get my team to contribute to content? Sometimes the person already has an idea of how they want the team to jump onto the bandwagon of their plan, sometimes they’re entirely open minded. I won’t get into pros and cons of various approaches here, rather after sharing some of my approaches in one on one settings I thought it could be useful to share more broadly here.

Guidance on performing retrospectives

In my career I’ve had to conduct a number of retrospectives. Ahead of them it already sucked, there was an outage at some point, customers were impacted, and it was our fault. Never was it solely on our underlying infrastructure provider (AWS or Heroku), nope the blame was on us and we’d failed in some way. And as soon as the incident was resolved, it wasn’t time to go home and decompress with a beer, it was time start the process of a retrospective.

Finding the motivation to get right back to work is tough, but not losing time is important. There is probably a lot out there on retrospectives, and in general I was well rehearsed at them. But since I’d not performed a large scale one in a few years I found myself rusty and thought it’d be good to share some of our process.

Postgres - the non-code bits

Postgres is an interesting open source project. It’s truly one of a kind, it has its own license to prove it as opposed to falling under something like Apache or GPL. The Postgres community structure is something that is pretty well defined if you’re involved in the community, but to those outside it’s likely a little less clear. In case you’re curious to learn more about the community here’s a rundown of a few various aspects of it:

Dear Postgres

Dear Postgres, I’ve always felt an affinity for you in my 9 years of working with you. I know others have known you longer, but that doesn’t mean they love you more. Years ago when others complained about your rigidness or that you weren’t as accommodating as others I found solace in your steadfast values: Don’t lose data Adhere to standards Move forward with a balancing act between new fads of the day while still continuously improving You’ve been there and seen it all.

Tracking and managing your Postgres connections

Managing connections in Postgres is a topic that seems to come up several times a week in conversations. I’ve written some about scaling your connections and the right approach when you truly need a high level of connections, which is to use a connection pooler like pgBouncer. But what do you do before that point and how can you better track what is going on with your connections in Postgres?

Better database migrations in Postgres

As your database grows and scales there are some operations that you need to take more care of than you did when you were just starting. When working with your application in your dev environment you may not be fully aware of the cost of some operations until you run them against production. And at some point most of us have been guilty of it, running some migration that starts at 5 minutes, then 15 minutes in it’s still running, and suddenly production traffic is impacted.

There are two operations that tend to happen quite frequently, each with some straightforward approaches to mitigate having any noticable amount of downtime. Let’s look at each of the operations, how they work and then how you can approach them in a safer way.

Postgres backups: Logical vs. Physical an overview

It’s not a very disputed topic that you should backup your database, and further test your backups. What is a little less discussed, at least for Postgres, is the types of backups that exist. Within Postgres there are two forms of backups and understanding them is a useful foundation for anyone working with Postgres. The two backup types are

  1. Physical: which consist of the actual bytes on disk,
  2. Logical: which is a more portable format.

Let’s dig into each a bit more so you can better assess which makes sense for you.

Working with time in Postgres

A massive amount of reporting queries, whether really intensive data analysis, or just basic insights into your business involving looking at data over a certain time period. Postgres has really rich support for dealing with time out of the box, something that’s often very underweighted when dealing with a database. Sure, if you have a time-series database it’s implied, but even then how flexible and friendly is it from a query perspective? With Postgres there’s a lot of key items available to you, let’s dig in at the things that make your life easier when querying.

Getting started with JSONB in Postgres

JSONB is an awesome datatype in Postgres. I find myself using it on a weekly basis these days. Often in using some API (such as clearbit) I’ll get a JSON response back, instead of parsing that out into a table structure it’s really easy to throw it into a JSONB then query for various parts of it.

If you’re not familiar with JSONB, it’s a binary representation of JSON in your database. You can read a bit more about it vs. JSON here.

In working with JSONB here’s a few quick tips to get up and running with it even faster: